Condrea remembers that when she was younger, adults often thought she had a poor attitude because she could not take directions well. Horton’s Kids staff and tutors saw past this challenge, instead recognizing her intelligence and drive and inviting her to participate in a book club, where she thrived. Condrea loved Shakespeare’s Macbeth so much that she would read while riding the Horton’s Kids school bus to and from tutoring – even when it was pitch-dark.

“Horton’s Kids saw my potential when a lot of people didn’t,” said Condrea, who started attending Horton’s Kids when she was five. “It made me feel like I could be better; there is more out there for me to learn. When I started pushing myself, it taught me that there are so many ways to do one thing.”

When she was 15, Condrea’s family moved away from Wellington Park, but Horton’s Kids Deputy Director Julie kept in touch through meetings with her mom and conversations over the phone and on Facebook. Condrea remembers Julie saying: “There’s always space for you.”

After high school graduation, Condrea went to Penn State to study Criminal Justice and Early Childhood Education. The first in her family to go to college, it was an exciting time, but also a challenging one. Family and friends were far away, and at times, she felt out of her comfort zone as she navigated college life.

During her junior year, the challenges of balancing a full-time job with a full class load were overwhelming, and Condrea started falling behind academically. After losing some of her financial aid, she could not afford textbooks. A longtime Horton’s Kids volunteer, Carrie, quickly stepped up to raise funds for books and other expenses.

“Horton’s Kids taught me that I should never give up, and they will do anything to make sure that I succeed,” Condrea said. “They have never let me fall through the cracks.”

Condrea graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in 2014. She now works as an educator at City Kids, a DC nonprofit, and helps run an afterschool program. In her job, she applies what she learned in college about educational inequalities with her personal experience of growing up in Ward 8.

For children who face obstacles similar to hers, Condrea offers some advice: “There are a lot of times when you feel like you can’t go any more, but you got to dig deep and ask for help. This world needs you more than you think.”